opening this week
THE BOUNTY HUNTER
The title character (Gerard Butler) gets the chance to bring in, and get back at, his ex-wife (Jennifer Aniston), a reporter who's chasing a murder cover-up story -- until everybody starts chasing them in this action comedy featuring (among others) Christine Baranski, Jeff Garlin, Carol Kane and Cathy Moriarty. At multiple locations. (106 min.) PG-13; sexual content including suggestive comments, profanity, violence.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID
Reviewed on Page 33.
MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY
In this Filipino romance, a young man (John Lloyd Cruz) falls for an overseas worker from Malaysia (Bea Alonzo), which complicates things for him -- especially because his future career hinges on marrying his socialite fiancee (Maricar Reyes). Cathy Garcia-Molina directs. In Tagalog. At Village Square. (120 min.) NR; rated PG-13 by the Philippines ratings board.
In a future where human organs can be bought, sold -- and repossessed -- a repo expert (Jude Law) suffers cardiac arrest and gets a new heart, but can't pay the bill, prompting the company to send his former partner (Forest Whitaker) after him. Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, RZA and "Black Book's" Carice Van Houten headline the supporting cast. At multiple locations. (111 min.) R; strong bloody violence, grisly images, profanity, sexuality, nudity.
ALREADY IN THEATERS
Movies are rated on a letter-grade scale, from A to F. Opinions by R-J movie critic Carol Cling (C.C.) are indicated by initials. Other opinions are from wire service critics.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
(C) Curiouser and curiouser: All the wonder and whimsy that made Lewis Carroll's original "Alice" such a demented delight have gone down the rabbit hole in director Tim Burton's visually vivid, thematically vapid new version; it's almost as if Alice ("In Treatment's" Mia Wasikowska) took a wrong turn and wound up in Narnia (or on the Yellow Brick Road, bound for Oz), where she encounters, among others, the Red Queen (a hilariously unhinged Helena Bonham Carter), the Cheshire Cat (sly Stephen Fry) and the madcap Mad Hatter (who else but Johnny Depp?). It's demented, to be sure, but delightful? Not quite. (109 min.) PG; fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, a smoking caterpillar. (C.C.)
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL
(D) Twice the Chipmunks, half the fun: The title trio (voiced by Justin Long, Jesse McCartney , Matthew Gray Gubler) faces competition from rival cuties the Chipettes (Amy Pohler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate) in this "squeakquel" to the 2007 hit. Your kids will love it, but you'll need a hazmat suit. (88 min.) PG; mild rude humor.
(B-) Dances with "Aliens": Writer-director James Cameron ("Titanic") takes us to the 22nd-century planet Pandora, where paraplegic ex-Marine Jake Sully (clunky hunk Sam Worthington) joins a corporate mining operation's scientific program -- and finds a new life when he encounters the native Na'vi. A spectacular effects extravaganza that might have been a genuine landmark -- if only Cameron had paid as much attention to story as he does to technology. (162 min.) PG-13; intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sexual references, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
THE BLIND SIDE
(B-) This heartwarming, fact-based crowd-pleaser focuses on future NFL tackle Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a gentle giant who rises from virtual homelessness to football stardom with an assist from a force-of-nature Southern belle (sassy Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock) who takes him under her wing, and her roof. If it weren't a true story, it would be tough to believe, yet writer-director John Lee Hancock ("The Rookie") tackles a few gritty issues between the stand-up-and-cheer and lump-in-the-throat moments. (126 min.) PG-13; brief violence, drug and sexual references. (C.C.)
(C) The lives of three cops from New York's crime-ridden 65th Precinct -- a patrolman nearing retirement (Richard Gere), a secretive narcotics cop (Ethan Hawke) and an undercover officer (Don Cheadle ) -- intertwine, at the same deadly location, in this bloody mess of a cop drama. Despite a fine cast (including Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, Vincent D'Onofrio and Lili Taylor), director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") grinds viewers down through the movie's relentlessly bleak and barbarous approach. (140 min.) R; bloody violence, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content, pervasive profanity.
(D+) It's buddy-cop comedy time yet again, as two of New York's semi-finest (Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan) go after a memorabilia-obsessed gangster who's stolen a rare baseball card -- meant to finance the wedding of one of the cop's daughters. Seann William Scott, Jason Lee, Adam Brody and Kevin Pollak co-star in a clumsy, post-modern example of a tired genre that stuffs as many genre references as it can into the ceaseless Willis-Morgan patter. (110 min.) R; pervasive profanity including sexual references, violence, brief sexuality.
(B) The horror remake parade continues with "Sahara" director Breck Eisner's insane-in-the-membrane update of George A. Romero's 1973 chiller about small-town Iowans (played by, among others, Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell) who ingest water, tainted with a mysterious toxin, that makes them go (you guessed it) crazy. It's not exactly a zombie movie, but derives much of its horror from the same fear that the enemy lurks both within and without you -- and there's a very real chance you might turn into a monster. (101 min.) R; bloody violence, profanity.
(B+) Bad to the bone: Running-on-empty country singer Bad Blake (Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges) strikes a chord with an aspiring music journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who just might be just the good-hearted woman to save a good-timin' man -- for whom the good times ended long ago. Actor-turned-filmmaker Scott Cooper takes us down a well-traveled road, but his keen eye for detail -- and Bridges' subtle spellbinder of a performance -- make the journey worthwhile. (111 min.) R; profanity, brief sexuality. (C.C.)
(C) Nothing to write home about: The spring-break romance between a young Army Ranger (a strained, pained Channing Tatum) and an idealistic college student (beatific Amanda Seyfried of "Mamma Mia!") is sorely tested by the events, and impact, of Sept. 11, 2001. The latest in a seemingly endless line of movies based on a seemingly endless line of Nicholas Sparks best-sellers ("The Notebook," "Message in a Bottle," etc.), this one's another big ol' sloppy tub of mush -- and while lots of people may like the taste, it's tough to work up an appetite for yet another heaping helping of the same warmed-over sentiment. (105 min.) PG-13; sexual references, violence. (C.C.)
FANTASTIC MR. FOX
(B+) Quirky director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums") goes from live-action to stop-motion animation with a captivating tale of a sly fox (voiced by George Clooney) who outsmarts the vengeful farmers out to get him. Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Willem Dafoe, among others, lend their vivid voices to this fanciful story from Roald Dahl ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), which proves an ideal vehicle for Anderson's trademark whimsy. (87 min.) PG; action, smoking, slang humor. (C.C.)
THE GHOST WRITER
(B) An exiled former British prime minister (dynamic, Tony Blair-ish Pierce Brosnan), holed up to write his memoirs, finds himself at sea when a longtime aide drowns. Enter a professional ghostwriter (a wry Ewan McGregor), who's utterly unprepared for the political and sexual intrigue swirling around him. Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson and Kim Cattrall lead the smart supporting cast for Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, who delivers an absorbing, sometimes edgy adaptation of Robert Harris' best-selling "The Ghost." Not on a par with such Polanski classics as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" (what could be?), yet still packs a slyly macabre punch. (128 min.) PG-13; profanity, brief nudity/sexuality, violence, drug references. (C.C.)
(C) He's not quite Bourne again, but Matt Damon reunites with "Bourne" director Paul Greengrass for this topical thriller, about a U.S. Army officer who goes rogue in wartime Iraq, hunting for weapons of mass destruction after he uncovers evidence of faulty intelligence. It may be a visual and visceral knockout, but all the war-zone authenticity in the Arab world can't salvage the silly Hollywood plot at the heart of things. (115 min.) R; violence, profanity.
THE HURT LOCKER
(A) Three members of an Army bomb-defusing squad -- a cocky sergeant (Jeremy Renner), his steady second-in-command (Anthony Mackie) and a scared-spitless rookie (Brian Geraghty) -- hit the streets of Iraq hoping to save lives, including their own. In this riveting action drama, director Kathryn Bigelow ("Point Break") demonstrates her mastery of action (and psychology), exploring how dehumanizing -- and how addictive -- combat can be. (131 min.) R; war violence, profanity. (C.C.)
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS
(B-) When an enigmatic charmer (the late Heath Ledger) joins a traveling sideshow, the stage is set for phantasmagorical visions and philosophical musings from writer-director Terry Gilliam. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law step in to complete scenes unfilmed at the time of Ledger's death, while delightful portrayals from Christopher Plummer (as the imaginative title character), model-turned-actress Lily Cole (as his bewitching daughter) and Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer (as his sarcastic sidekick) keep the humor, and the humanity, in motion. (122 min.) PG-13; violent images, sensuality, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
(B-) Battle of the (s)exes: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin play the angles in this romantic comedy about a long-divorced woman who finds herself having a passionate affair -- with the ex-husband who left her for a younger woman. Writer-director Nancy Meyers' usual mix of contrived humor and sledgehammer stereotyping gets classy treatment from the savvy Streep and the scene- and movie-stealing Baldwin, who emerges as the movie's most human (and therefore most sympathetic) character, despite what the script says. (118 min.) R; drug content, sexual situations, brief nudity. (C.C.)
THE LAST STATION
(B) It's 1910, and the world's leading novelist, Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) finds himself torn between his idealistic principles and his imperious wife Sofya (Helen Mirren), who's determined to keep her husband's literary profits all in the family. Paul Giamatti (as Tolstoy's devoted yet devious friend) and James McAvoy (as a naive witness to the intrigue) deliver deft support in a handsome period drama that draws striking parallels with our own celebrity-obsessed time. Yet Mirren and Plummer provide a welcome reminder that great actors in action create special effects no computer-generated imagery could ever approximate. (112 min.) R; sexual situations, nudity. (C.C.)
(D) Pure hell: God's given up on the human race and plans to wipe it out -- again -- as the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) teams up with some folks at an isolated desert diner (Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson and Charles S. Dutton among them) to battle for humanity's survival. Profane, profanely silly and blasphemous to beat the band, this may traffic in signs of the apocalypse -- but only proves we're stranded in movie hell. (100 min.) R; strong bloody violence, profanity.
THE LOVELY BONES
(C) A strangely lifeless adaptation of Alice Sebold's 2002 best-seller, about a murdered teenager ("Atonement's" radiant Saoirse Ronan) who witnesses the aftermath of her death from a dreamlike limbo halfway between heaven and earth. Rather that focus on her tormented parents (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) and her equally tormented killer (Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci), "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson busies himself with special effects, blunting the emotional impact of what ought to be a heart-wrenching tale. (135 min.) PG-13; mature themes involving disturbing violent content and images, profanity. (C.C.)
OUR FAMILY WEDDING
(C) Feuding fathers (Carlos Mencia, Forest Whitaker) reluctantly come together when their children ("Ugly Betty's" America Ferrara, Bonanza High School graduate Lance Gross) become engaged in this culture-clash comedy featuring Taye Diggs, Diana-Maria Riva and Regina King. Despite the inherent cheesiness of the wedding genre -- and the equally checkered history of stridently ethnic movies -- director Rick Famuyiwa ("The Wood") manages to find the charm within the clichés. (90 min.) PG-13; sexual content, brief profanity.
PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF
(C) No spark: This latest attempt to find a new "Harry Potter" (from Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter movies) adapts the first installment of Rick Riordan's five-book series about a teen (Logan Lerman) who discovers he's the descendant of a Greek god -- and must undertake an odyssey to Mount Olympus. (Via Las Vegas, which is seen in second-unit footage filmed here.) Uma Thurman's snake-haired Medusa and studly Pierce Brosnan's mythical centaur almost make this worth seeing, but despite the starry supporting cast (Rosario Dawson, Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd and Catherine Keener), this is more a list of ingredients than a movie-magical potion. (119 min.) PG; action violence and peril, scary images, suggestive material, mild profanity.
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
(A) Let the good times roll: The magic's back in this Disney delight, a traditionally animated tale set in Roaring '20s New Orleans, about nose-to-the-grindstone Tiana (voiced by "Dreamgirls' " Anika Noni Rose), who dreams of running her own restaurant -- until a close encounter with a voodoo-cursed prince changes everything. Co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker ("The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin") serve up a scrumptious jambalaya that's the best traditionally animated Disney feature since "Beauty and the Beast." (97 min.) G; all ages. (C.C.)
(C) A rebellious NYU student ("Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattinson, still in full brooding mode) meets his match in a fellow student (Emilie de Raven), but their relationship is threatened by the very thing that brought them together in this dread-filled character study featuring Pierce Brosnan (once again demonstrating his character-actor chops) and always solid Chris Cooper. Set in the summer of 2001, this romanticizes -- and pretentiously revels in -- tragedy and its aftermath. (128 min.) PG-13; violence, sexual content, profanity, smoking.
SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE
(C) Can a hottie and a nottie find true romance? An average guy ("Tropic Thunder" scene-stealer Jay Baruchel) tries to maintain an unlikely relationship with a perfect 10 who's on the rebound ("Starter for 10's" Alice Eve) in a blandly raunchy romantic comedy featuring Mike Vogel ("Cloverfield") and Krysten Ritter ("Woke Up Dead"). Too bad the filmmakers forgot to give Baruchel's character an actual personality that might appeal to the opposite sex; as a result, there's no reason to believe what happens to this nice-guy non-entity. (105 min.) R; profanity, sexual content.
(C-) In Victorian-era London, the title sleuth (Robert Downey Jr.) and his faithful companion Dr. Watson (Jude Law) take on a sinister serial killer ("The Young Victoria's" Mark Strong) in an anachronistic adventure that trashes one of the world's most beloved literary characters, transforming him into a brash action hero. "Rocknrolla" director Guy Ritchie's hyperkinetic style puts the focus on brawn rather than brain, which seems a cruel fate for an actor as smart as Downey -- and a character as brilliant as Holmes. (128 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and action, startling images, suggestive material. (C.C.)
(C+) Shudder Island: Director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Departed," "The Aviator") reunite for this adaptation of "Mystic River" author Denis Lehane's novel, set in 1954, about a haunted U.S. marshal searching for a murderous escapee from a hospital for the criminally insane. Exquisitely crafted, but an exercise in B-movie melodrama, albeit with an A-level cast: Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson are among the heavy hitters trying to score. Scorsese works hard (too hard) conjuring a creepy atmosphere, but creating sustained suspense seems beyond him. (138 min.) R; disturbing violent content, profanity, nudity. (C.C.)
A SINGLE MAN
(B) In early-'60s Los Angeles, a grief-stricken British professor (Colin Firth) tries to carry on -- and contemplates ending it all -- after the sudden death of his longtime lover ("Leap Year's" Matthew Goode). Firth's marvelously restrained, deeply moving performance (and that of Julianne Moore as his brittle, bitter friend) breathe welcome life into this adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel from designer-turned-director Tom Ford, who stages scenes with the studied precision of a fashion layout, thereby robbing the movie of some of its life -- and heart. (99 min.) R; disturbing images, nudity, sexual content. (C.C.)
THAT EVENING SUN
(B+) Times change -- but some people have no intention of changing with them, including a flinty retirement-home escapee (an Oscar-caliber Hal Holbrook) determined to regain control of his Tennessee farm from the struggling loser ("The Blind Side's" Ray McKinnon) leasing it. Writer-director Scott Teems' quietly insightful feature debut provides yet another reminder (as if we needed one) of Holbrook's ability to inhabit characters who don't say a whole lot -- but have a lot to say about the human condition. (110 min.) PG-13; brief profanity, violence, sexual content, thematic elements. (C.C.)
(C) When a minor-league hockey player (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) tells a youngster the Tooth Fairy doesn't really exist, he gets his comeuppance when he's transformed into the title character, complete with tutu and wings. Stealing liberally from "Monsters Inc." and "Elf" (among others), this is exactly what you'd expect: a harmless tale of optimism overcoming disbelief, complete with comical casting (including Julie Andrews as a Fairy Godmother) and a heaping helping of Johnson's game, antic charm. (101 min.) PG; mild language, rude humor, sports action.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON
(C-) The second bite(s): In this chapter of Stephenie Meyer's best-selling series, Bella (Kristen Stewart) discovers that the course of true love never does run smooth, especially when her beloved Edward Cullen (brooding Robert Pattinson) leaves town with his vampire family rather than endanger her life. Good thing her friend Jacob Black (hunky Taylor Lautner) is still around -- but he's got a deep dark secret all his own. Goes double on the swoon factor, transforming the urgency of teen lust into a dour, draggy mopefest. (130 min.) PG-13; violence and action. (C.C.)
(C) On a sunny L.A. Valentine's Day, an all-star cavalcade takes up, breaks up and makes up in a frothy romantic comedy that's a game of cinematic musical chairs -- the story whirls 'round and 'round, pausing just long enough for each character to take center stage. Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace make the most of their brief time in the spotlight, but Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, Queen Latifah, Bradley Cooper and even Shirley MacLaine all have their moments. If life is like a box of chocolates, then this is like a bowl of conversation hearts: a bunch of little somethings that add up to hardly anything. (125 min.) PG-13; some sexual material, brief partial nudity. (C.C.)
WHEN IN ROME
(D+) Romantic bomb-edy: On a whirlwind trip to Rome, an unlucky-in-love New Yorker (Kristen Bell) steals some coins from a legendary fountain of love -- and finds herself pursued by several ardent suitors, including a sausage magnate (Danny DeVito), a street magician (Jon Heder), a painter (Will Arnett), a narcissistic model (Dax Shepard) and a charming reporter (Josh Duhamel) who might just be Mr. Right. It's all exceptionally predictable and disappointingly laugh-free. (91 min.) PG-13; suggestive content.
THE WHITE RIBBON
(A) In pre-World War I Germany, the placid exterior life of a small farming village masks a world of hidden cruelty in a gorgeously gloomy parable that won the top prize at last year's Cannes film festival. Director Michael Haneke ("Funny Games," "The Piano Teacher") explores the origins of hatred malice and communal barbarity that would explode in Germany a generation later in a harrowing cinematic journey that's well worth taking -- if you're up to the challenge. In German with English subtitles. (145 min.) R; disturbing content involving violence and sexuality.
(D) A howler: This toothless, misbegotten reboot of the old Universal horror franchise stars a miscast Benicio Del Toro as the long-estranged son of a British nobleman (Anthony Hopkins) who returns to his ancestral home to investigate his brother's mysterious death -- until a bloodthirsty creature's bite turns him into a hairy, howling homicidal maniac. Despite eerie Victorian-era atmosphere and state-of-the-art makeup and effects, this is a gruesome, bloody fondue, dominated by the unsavory flavors of actorly ham and studio cheese. (125 min.) R; bloody horror violence and gore. (C.C.)